Striker Danny Walsh went from hero to villain to hero again as jubilant Awsworth Villa lifted the Notts Senior League’s Senior Cup with a magnificent team-effort in the final to beat Premier Division rivals, Real United, 2-1.
After Walsh had given Villa an early lead, he later missed a penalty, and the score was locked at 1-1 with just six minutes remaining. But then a long ball forward found Walsh bearing down on the Real defence. He kept his cool to check back on to his left foot and leave the defence and goalkeeper helpless by rolling a shot into the net for the winner.
Villa defended strongly to see out the match, which was watched by a crowd of more than 200 at Dunkirk’s ground in Nottingham, and when the final whistle went, the celebrations could begin.
Captain Ryan Whitehurst lifted the trophy, along with the club’s life-president and groundsman Malcolm Slaney, while Liam Smith was presented with the man-of-the-match award after an outstanding performance in the heart of the backline.
But Walsh was the focus of attention and he summed up the feelings of the team. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions,” he said. “The early goal helped massively, but the penalty-miss set us all back.
“It was hard to take at half-time, especially as they got the equaliser almost immediately. But the character the team showed was typical of us all season and, of course, I was delighted to get the winner, especially as thought I would have been ruled out of the game altogether by injury.”
In fact, Walsh had missed most of 2016, but he not only took his place in the side, he also gave them the perfect start with a goal in the second minute. Steve Hutchinson’s low cross was laid off perfectly by Robbie Tonra and Walsh unleashed an unstoppable half-volley.
The goal settled early nerves and Villa looked comfortable in possession, with Whitehurst forcing a superb save from the Real ‘keeper with an acrobatic volley.
And when, in the 29th minute, the skipper was brought down as he went round the ‘keeper, they looked certain to take full command. Walsh stepped up to take the spot-kick full of confidence, but his shot flew the wrong side of a post.
The miss seemed to breathe new life into Real, who levelled four minutes later. Ryan Bowen and Jonathan Hart doubled up down the left-hand side before the latter delivered a perfect cross for Jack Charlton to head home.
The second half was more evenly matched. But the best of the few chances fell to Villa as John Whitehurst skimmed the bar and pacy substitute Matt Goodwin sent a header crashing off the woodwork after going on to replace Anthony Withe.